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Fentanyl Signs, Symptoms, & Effects

Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl has been at the front and center of the opioid epidemic as well as drug overdose deaths recently. Developed as a prescription opioid to treat severe pain after surgery or pain in cancer patients, this pain medication is now regularly found in heroin and other illicit drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) designated fentanyl as a schedule II drug, which means it has high potential for addiction and misuse.

Known in the medical community by brand names like Duragesic, Fentora, and Actiq, doctors prescribe fentanyl in transdermal patches, buccal tablets, or in liquid or pill form. A physician should closely monitor your use to make sure you’re taking fentanyl safely. The synthetic opioid is around 50 times stronger than morphine and 100 times stronger than heroin.

Signs of Fentanyl Abuse in a Loved One

Seeing a loved one struggle with addiction can feel scary and overwhelming. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs when used without regular monitoring of use and dose of fentanyl by a doctor or pharmacist. If you’re concerned that a loved one is addicted to opioids, pay attention to the following warning signs.

  • Severe drowsiness and falling asleep at odd times (“nodding out”)
  • Weight changes
  • Erratic moods
  • Seeming confused or foggy
  • Less attention to personal hygiene
  • Slurred speech
  • Digestion issues
  • Clumsiness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Work, relationship, or financial issues
  • Taking fentanyl other than instructed (if prescribed by a doctor)
  • Going to multiple doctors and having multiple prescriptions
  • Storing fentanyl in discreet places
  • Finding empty prescription bottles or needles
  • Fentanyl patch that have been broken open and the contents removed

Addiction to opioid drugs like fentanyl is formally diagnosed as an opioid use disorder. It’s one of the most dangerous and difficult addictions to overcome. It’s possible to recover with help from medical and addiction experts. If you suspect your loved one is abusing fentanyl, reach out for help. Call your doctor, their doctor, or an addiction treatment center. They can advise you on what to do next.

Signs You’re Addicted to Fentanyl

The telltale sign of fentanyl abuse is using it other than as prescribed by a doctor. If you increase your dose and don’t tell your doctor, taking fentanyl in larger doses than prescribed, or buying it off the streets, it’s time to get help. Common side effects of and behavioral symptoms of fentanyl abuse that can indicate an addiction to the drug, may include:

  • Requiring fentanyl to feel normal or get through your day.
  • Increasing the amount of fentanyl you take without consulting your doctor.
  • Seeing several doctors to obtain more fentanyl.
  • Ruminating on when you will use fentanyl again and how you will get more.
  • Inability to cut back on or stop taking fentanyl.
  • Participating in risky activities like driving yourself or others while on drugs or operating machinery.
  • Withdrawing from or losing interest in activities, friends, and family.
  • Taking fentanyl when you drink alcohol or take other drugs.
  • Struggling with work, school, financial, legal, or relationships because of your drug use.
  • Experiencing hallucinations or delusions.
  • Having symptoms of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
  • Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms when you quit taking fentanyl.
  • Using fentanyl transdermal patches other than they were meant, such as breaking open and making a liquid to inject.

Short-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

In addition to easing physical pain, fentanyl may cause short-term pleasing feelings. It can also distort perception. This is one of the reasons it is often abused.

Short-term fentanyl effects may include:

  • Reduced inhibition
  • Warm feelings towards others
  • Euphoria
  • Pleasant mood
  • Relaxation
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Gut issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Thirst
  • Slowed or shallow breathing

Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Serious side effects are a risk with long-term fentanyl use and abuse. Fentanyl may increase the risk of:

Overdose – People regularly overdose on fentanyl. It’s a powerful drug and just a small amount can cause overdose. Fentanyl is especially dangerous when the user doesn’t know that heroin has been cut with it.

Mental health disorders – Opioids interfere with your natural production of brain chemicals that are linked to psychological issues like anxiety and depression when out of balance.

Cardiovascular issues – Opioid abuse increases your risk of heart conditions like low blood pressure, heart failure, and heart attack.

Illness – Over time, opioids can begin suppressing B cells and T cells, which are important components of warding off infection and disease.

Stomach problems – Opioids can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Gastrointestinal issues may include inflamed stomach lining, bowel obstructions, and intestinal holes.

Brain damage – Abusing fentanyl and other opioids can harm your frontal lobe. This part of your brain is responsible for functions such as memory, spatial awareness, and attention.

Fentanyl Withdrawal Symptoms

Fentanyl withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and extremely uncomfortable without medical interventions. You should not try to stop using fentanyl on your own. People going through fentanyl withdrawal commonly experience:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Low blood pressure
  • Runny nose and other flu-like symptoms
  • Heart rate fluctuations
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Problems sleeping
Fentanyl detox should always involve health care professionals who can provide emergency medical help, regularly check your vital signs, and ease painful withdrawal symptoms with medications.

Signs of a Fentanyl Overdose

The risk of opioid overdose may increase with fentanyl use because of its extremely high potency. A common problem with buying heroin and other drugs on the street is that they are frequently laced with fentanyl. Taking your usual dose of drug is not safe when fentanyl is in the mix. Symptoms of overdose in an opioid user may include:
  • Shallow breathing, trouble breathing, or stop breathing altogether
  • Low body temperature with clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Body limpness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blue or gray colored skin and lips
  • Dilated pupils
If you suspect someone is overdosing, call for medical attention immediately.

How Do You Treat Fentanyl Addiction?

Behavioral healthcare professionals treat fentanyl abuse with medical and behavioral interventions. The first step in treatment is medical detox. This is important because opioid withdrawal symptoms can be painful and the urge to take drugs to stop the discomfort can feel overwhelming. Additionally, it’s important to have 24/7 medical support to keep you safe and ease withdrawal symptoms.

Following detox, addiction treatment is needed to prevent relapse. In a drug rehab program, you’ll explore the reasons why you abuse drugs and how to manage those triggers. You’ll develop healthy coping skills and build a support system. Many people with opioid use disorders are prescribed medication-assisted treatment (MAT). These are medicines to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms and ease strong cravings.

Often challenges like trauma or mental health disorders feed addictions. In addiction treatment you may take part in therapies that specifically target trauma. You may also work with a psychiatrist specializing in medications prescribed for mental health disorders and substance use issues.

Looking for Help?

We’ve seen clients take back their lives from opioid addiction and find fulfillment and joy in recovery. It’s very possible. If you or a loved one is struggling, give us a call to learn more about your programs. We’re here 24/7 and ready to chat with you.



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